Sutton – 1st half century
Hickson – 35 runs and 2/22 off 7 overs
Flannery – 16 runs
Russell – 4/28 off 5 overs inc. 2 caught and bowled
Tailor – 2/15 off 3 overs
Barraclough – 1/9 off 5 overs
Pretorious and Shaw – 2 courageous aerial pursuits to save 4 runs
English weather – For lifting its game slightly to enable a full day of cricket
Fresh from France and festooned in the world’s greatest cricket celebration dotted mainly across jubilant months of June and July, PCC bowed to the local watering hole, The Plough, on its way to the annual “Western Derby” with Northfields.
Nestled in the Borough Of Ealing, it could be described as a crown jewel in West London as the ground is blessed with beautiful flight paths, fantastic facilities (apart from no hot water in the showers), a local cafe with brunch that packs a punch and close proximity to the previous PCC home soil.
For many, Northfields has been the hard nut to crack as no Plough side of recent years has enjoyed any success on the road there. Si’s Sunday boys from last year are no stranger to these proceedings as well documented in the match report by the all round nice guy Gledhill in his riveting recollections of a shooting gallery on a scorching day which Billy Ocean would have described as his Caribbean Queen.
There were ominous clouds gathering overhead all morning as the game look set for a washout until the heavens hit the pause button to invoke a ray of sunshine or two, which percolated across the paddock just in time for “kick off” at 1pm.
Barraclough and Pretorius were welcome additions to a largely “youthful” side on paper as we needed to
A) Set a strong total
B) Spin it to win it with limited pacers in the shed
C) Field well across the short boundaries
D) Any combination of the above
Captain Carson’s troopers won the toss and elected to bat as Barraclough and Polebonia were entrusted with the opening duties against the oppo’s no.1 bowler A Khan who had the eye of the tiger. No doubt their young quick could extract more swing / movement from the pitch than all the salsa clubs in Central London put together and along the way staked his claims for CWC selection.
Their tall left armer, the Northfields equivalent of Bruce Reid, also created plenty of headaches with runs proving very difficult to come by in windy conditions which could give Hong Kong airport’s cross winds a run for their money.
Polebonia succumbed to the pressure at both ends as he fell victim to the clinical bowling combination which was the start of what appeared to be death by 1000 cuts for PCC.
Hickson was next man in and looked very good from the outset. Brought onboard this year by his Brisbane buddy Stu, his poise and shot selection had the potential to bring the Queensland sunshine to a dull overcast day.
Barraclough was a man on a mission and hungry like the wolf to replay his Twickenham tonk broadcasted on the world wide web a few weeks back. Much like the frequently passing Boeing 747s touching down at Heathrow Airport, he is a joy to watch at the crease…although a P.I.T.A to bowl to at MV nets when in full fettle. Unfortunately, Barra’s stint was shortlived as Khan’s deadly outswingers sent tremors through the dressing room.
With yours truly, Shaw, Johnston and the normally dependable Duray sent packing in quick succession soon after, 6 down for 66 runs was providing the cheap as chips horror show with an ending in arms reach as it was nearly time to get the kettle on for a builders’ brew and bowl the sandwiches over.
PCC eventually breathed a sigh of relief with their “Ishant Sharma” given a spell in the deep and talismanic Hicko starting to pick up singles and the odd boundary. He was well supported by Flannery in his “jack out of the box” short cameo which included a few lusty blows to the boundary; 30 runs for the 7th wicket with Hicko playing the anchor role.
Flannery was eventually clean bowled as Northfields eyed off the final 2 wickets like a starving city trader waiting outside a Brick Lane curry house on a Friday lunch break.
Sutton, our next fresh find from New Zealand, had other ideas however and clearly took the advice from Brett Lee eating his Weetabix for breakfast. With the middle over bowlers offering plenty of candy, Gaz headed down town in a Chris Cairns’ish innings as two cherries were deposited in the backyards of W13 in a matter of a few overs.
As Captain Carson et al oscillated from despair to delight, Sutton brought up his maiden 50. Congratulations Gaz – a fine knock and an exhibition in clean hitting.
Carson then came and added a few vital runs to the tally with a couple of beautiful clips through the leg side. PCC edged passed 150 and we collectively agreed “this is not a bad score” over the teabreak.
After a brief team talk from Carson, the new kids on the block in Hicko and Johnston set to work early bowling to a tight field containing a couple of slips, gully, point, cover, mid on and mid off just to name a few. With vociferous Pretorius deputising our runs defence and the sunshine coming out, the afternoon looked in not too much of a shambles.
With dot balls and maidens mounting, Hicko opened the gates of their No.1 batter like finding the keys to the Bank Of England with a clean bowled dismissal.
The 2nd wicket stand proved to be a mini migraine as their Alex Hales motored along to his half century, and PCC began to sing deja vu when short balls were dispatched to the likes of deep square leg.
Carson and Pretorius toiled away keeping things tight across the good part of a dozen overs as the latter was unlucky not to pick up a wicket courtesy of some “butter naan” fielding at gully.
As the hosts looked comfortable on a Sunday stroll at 1 for 79 after 17 overs, yours truly was brought on to provide the catalyst for change and inspire his team to get back in the game. After a few clips down leg side, their No.3 was dismissed lbw.
3 down for 99 runs after 22 overs soon followed as Carson stuck with the West Aussie’s exports for a third over. The proposed fielding changes proving a stroke of genius after a CHOGM* style mini-conference between Carson and Tailor as their No.4 holed out to a low bouncing short pitched “dolly” that found the hands of Sutton at mid on.
The Sunday egalitarianism theme reigned supreme again as “Barra” and “Rusty” skittled through the middle to lower order like an indoor bowling course. The batsmen to follow providing a resilience of 6/34 runs across overs 22 to 30. Highlights include two delightful caught and bowled displays by Russell which would have put a smile on the dials of Silva and Bolsh our new Thursday fielding drills adjudicators. The batsmen ultimately had no answer to his relentless pursuit of wickets and dogged fielding off his own bowling. Russell really did set the tone for the side and undoubtedly was pick of the bowlers compensating for our lack of pacer stocks; cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Synonymous with Shahid Afridi in his prime, their opening bowler turned fast finisher nearly took the game down to the wire with Sutton’esque hitting down town and eventually ran out of partners with Carson bringing back his opening pacers to mop up. Johnston, in particular, redeemed himself with a clinical economic bowling spell at the depth and was rewarded for his efforts with a breakthrough wicket. Hicko also produced an Andy Bichel’ish master delivery that their No.11 could not keep out as PCC produced a stunning come from behind victory with all bowlers and fielders pulling together to Plough through under adversity.
As rightly pointed out in the weekend wrap up, a testament to the quality of depth developing at this club looking back on an entertaining game which was pulled out of the fire through sterling efforts by all and individual moments of brilliance when all appeared lost on an Autumnal Sunday afternoon.
* For the unwashed, CHOGM stands for Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting